San Diego Zoo entrance
The San Diego Zoo says all employees will be paid during the closure. File photo

Following a regional trend, the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park announced they would temporarily close to the public starting Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The zoo — one of San Diego’s largest tourist attractions — planned to reopen to the public April 1. All employees will be paid during the closure, zoo officials said in a statement.

“San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park are iconic destinations and we understand we play an important role in inspiring guests about the natural world, while also being a respite and escape for our audiences,” said Paul A. Baribault, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global.

“However, at this time, it is vital for San Diego Zoo Global to be a leader for the community and for our employees, and ensure we are putting the health and well-being of our greater community first.”

The zoo will remain open this weekend, and both locations have increased handwashing and sanitizing locations to prevent the spread of coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Large-capacity shows at both parks have been canceled and the number of passengers on the guided bus tour at the zoo and the Africa Tram at the safari park have been reduced to comply with social distancing advice.

“We, of course, remain committed to providing premier care for the remarkable wildlife at our parks during this time,” Baribault said. “We have also decided all employees will be paid during this time, regardless of their job responsibilities or ability to work remotely.”

Staff taking care of wildlife and maintaining other critical systems will remain active on grounds, however staff who are able to work from home will do so.

SeaWorld San Diego also announced Friday that it would temporarily close as of Monday.

“During this time, essential personnel, including animal care experts, will continue to look after the health, safety and nutritional needs of the animals in our care,” the park said in a statement. “Our animal rescue and rehabilitation operations will also continue to operate. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will continue to pay our full-time Ambassadors during this period.

“We are monitoring this evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation closely and coordinating with public health officials. We look forward to welcoming our valued guests back to our parks soon.”

Later Friday, Legoland California and the USS Midway Museum announced closures, as well.

Legoland announced it would shutter the main park, water park and Sea Life aquarium from Saturday through March 31.

“Legoland Hotel will remain open during this time. The health and safety of our guests and our staff is always our top priority and we are continuing to implement preventive measures in line with the recommendations of the CDC guidelines. Employees will continue to work on site as scheduled,” said Jake Gonzales, Legoland spokesman.

The USS Midway Museum would close to the public beginning Monday, March 16.

“Committed to our staff, we will continue to pay them during this time,” said museum spokesman David Koontz. “We will continue to actively monitor the situation and follow the guidance of county health officials, and hope to reopen as soon as possible.”

Other Southland amusement parks have also closed, including Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm.

Museums in Balboa Park had postponed events but stayed open.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. March 13, 2020

— City News Service